Hi, Folks. It's me again. I know you haven't heard this
from me in a while, and I know that some of you may have thought you'd
never hear it again, but I thought that now might be a good time to
resume writing "On Porpoise".
If there's anyone left out there who reads my stuff but
doesn't know what "On Porpoise" is, well .... it's my personal column
about the Miami Dolphins in which I just say whatever I like.
You see, when I write up my training camp reports, game
previews or summaries or just about anything else, I try to maintain
some sense of professionalism and detachment about the team and
provide my readers with factual information and as much objective
commentary (tinged with optimism) as I can muster.
None of that applies to "On Porpoise".
Oh, I will do my best to talk about some real aspect of
Miami Dolphins football, but don't expect me to keep my cool when
something bothers me or to restrain my enthusiasm when I'm really
excited about something.
Because that's not what "On Porpoise" is for. "On Porpoise"
is my personal soapbox where anything goes.
This is the first edition of "On Porpoise" that I've written
since I had the good fortune to become a proud father. For those of
you who are parents, you probably have a pretty good idea why I took a
sabbatical from writing just after my baby girl was born.
For those of you who don't have children, I can't explain it
to you. You'll just have to trust me when I say that love for my
daughter, combined with lack of sleep and awe at the whole concept of
raising a child (who me? act like an ADULT????!) turned my Cerebrum
to guacamole within about 24 hours of her birth - which is an amazing
story, in its own right.
One of the odd things about becoming a parent is that your
higher brain functions turn to mush almost instantly, but your body
compensates by having your reflexes improve dramatically.
Chris Chambers diving for a pass has nothing on a father
diving for his child as she dives off the sofa....
But I feel as though I'm ready to resume writing "On Porpoise"
for the 3 of you that want to read it (OK Dad, you can stop bugging me
now...) and so here is the first edition of the new millennium.
So, as the 2002 season opens, what should we talk about? The
quarterback controversy? (Don't fool yourselves, folks - there IS
one - or, at least there will be as soon as Jay throws his first
pick). The offensive line? (will they be offensive or merely...
offensive?) Prince Adewale Ogunleye?
How about the feel-good story of the year - at least so far -
Robert Edwards? As other writers have put it - you'd have to have a
heart of obsidian not to be cheering for Robert Edwards.
Well, as much as I'd like to talk about all those things (and
hopefully, I will eventually get a chance to), what I really want to
talk about is not the 2002 Dolphins.
What I want to talk about is the 1972 Dolphins, the greatest
team in the history of the NFL.
The reason I want to talk about the '72 Dolphins is that I saw
the ESPN special on the '72 team hosted by Dan Dierdorf back in June
and it kept Phins.com alive.
At the time, I was thinking seriously about selling Phins.com
and giving up this one-man reporting operation. But watching that
show reminded me of what the Miami Dolphins have been about since the
beginning and I realized that I couldn't give up my commitment to the
Dolphins, the keepers of the legacy of the greatest team in football
history - the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
Now sure, that's hokey. But being a fan is hokey. If I
wanted serious discourse and somber discussion, I'd turn on "Wall
Street Week" - and then fall asleep.
But watching the show about a group of players who
accomplished what no one before or since has accomplished filled me
with pride. And I realized that I wasn't ready to give up Phins.com.
So, here I am again, thanks to the '72 Miami Dolphins.
And then, a couple of weeks ago, a group of sports writers at
ESPN announced their pick for the greatest team in history and they
picked the '85 Bears. Their thoughts about going the '72 team
"Ultimately, it's a thin argument".
Going undefeated is a "thin" argument? Permit me to respond by
quoting Bill Parcells, back when he was the Patriots' head coach. He
was asked by a reporter if he thought that the Patriots were
better than their record. He responded by saying "No, we're exactly
as good as our record".
He went on to explain that since winning was the only thing
that counted, it didn't matter how fast, how tough or how strong the
players were if they didn't win. So no team was "better" or "worse"
than their record.
So, to ESPN I say - the '72 Dolphins were exactly as good as
their record - they were perfect. No other team has ever been
perfect. And nothing else really matters.
But for those who wish to nitpick the details, let's talk about
The 1972 Miami Dolphins had the number 1 offense and defense,
in terms of yards gained and yards allowed. They also lead the league
in both points scored and points allowed. They were so dominant
running the ball, they had 2 1000 yard runners in a 14 game season,
both of whom averaged over 5 yards per carry for the year.
The team averaged 4.8 yards per carry running the ball and
averaged over 200 yards PER GAME in rushing.
And while the passing game was overshadowed by the run, the
Dolphins' top 3 receivers, Paul Warfield, Howard Twilley and Marlin
Briscoe EACH averaged over 18 yards per catch. Hall-of-Famer Paul
Warfield averaged 20.9 yards per catch.
The 'No-Name' defense, for their part, allowed an average of
just 12.2 points per game by opponents.
The team played 9 regular season games and 1 playoff game with
a backup quarterback, after Bob Griese was injured in game 5 of the
regular season. In those days, there was no such thing as home field
advantage in the playoffs and the Dolphins had to go on the road to
Pittsburgh to play the AFC Championship game.
And, of course, they won the SuperBowl. Not just won it, but
The counter argument has been that Miami didn't play a tough
schedule. But at least part of the reason that Miami's opponents had
a low winning percentage is that they had to play Miami. Sometimes
And of the games that Miami played that year, only 3 of 14
ended with scores that were within a touchdown. So Miami did beat
it's opponents convincingly, as a good team does when it faces bad
So the "strength of schedule" argument is, ultimately, thinner
than Calista Flockhart.
But to me, the bottom line is about what "greatness" really
means. Does being "great" just mean being really, really good or does
it mean something more?
Because if it just means being really good, then the 1973
Dolphins have more of a claim to greatness than the '72 Dolphins.
Fans, knowledgeable sportswriters and the players themselves generally
agree that the 1973 Dolphin team was actually a better team than their
1972 predecessors. And they're probably right.
But I believe that greatness is about more than just being
really good. It's about more than even being the best in your chosen
Greatness, after all is said and done, is about transcending
the ordinary boundaries of what's possible and doing something that,
under ordinary circumstances, would be impossible. It's about taking
the game beyond it's normal limits and showing the world something
new... about accomplishing something that no one, before or since, has
Greatness is unique. Multiple teams have ended the season
with just 1 regular season loss and won a SuperBowl. No other team in
the entire history of the NFL has ever gone undefeated through an
entire season and won the championship.
And greatness is timeless. The achievements of greatness last
well beyond the time in which they were accomplished. Merely being
the best team in any given year is not timeless, if only because the
players and the game have changed so much over the history of the NFL
that comparing, say, the 1965 Packers to the 2001 Patriots is the
ultimate in "apples to oranges" comparisons.
If you could somehow transport the 1965 Packers to this year,
most of the teams in the NFL would squash them on the playing field.
But that does not diminish their greatness.
So to pick the greatest team of all time, you must find a team
that is truly unique - that has accomplished something that no other
team in the history of the league has accomplished. Otherwise, the
selection has no meaning.
Now, if you want to argue about which was the "best" team of all
time, there are a lot to choose from. The '78 Steelers, the '73
Dolphins, the '89 49ers, the '85 Bears, the '65 Packers... the list
could go on and on.
But it you want to know which NFL team was the Greatest team
of all time, there can only be one choice - the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
Now, for the start of the 2002 season, I don't have much to
say that I haven't already said in my game summary on Phins.com. The
victory over the Lions was impressive, but I was pleased to hear the
comments from the players and coach Wannstedt following the game that
showed they knew they had a long way to go.
For it's going to be a long season and most of the games won't
go like Sunday's game. Still, you can bet that the Dolphins will do
their best to show us all that Sunday was not an exception and that
they crushed the Lions....
... on Porpoise.